Interview By Craig Walendziak
All right, for those of you who haven’t had a chance to check out Eat yet, I highly suggest you do so. It’s a fantastic example of indie film making: a unique idea, great execution, and a DIY attitude. It’s one of the few ‘body horror’ films, that made me squirm on my couch while watching it. I recently had the pleasure of working with writer/director Jimmy Weber on another project, and he was gracious enough to grant me this interview.
1. What was the first visual that inspired the idea for Eat ?
It was about 4 or 5 years ago now, but I was sitting in traffic and chewing on my fingernails. I have a bad nail biting habit. I regularly eat the cuticles around my fingers. It’s disgusting. One day I was chewing on my thumb, staring at the windshield with glassy eyes, emotionless. My finger was bleeding and it hurt, but I kept chewing for some reason. The thought “What the fuck are you doing?” hit me and then inspiration struck like lightening. What if a girl felt compelled to eat her own flesh even though she didn’t want to?
2. What were some benefits to starting Eat as a short story before a screenplay?
That day when inspiration hit, I got home from wherever I was and immediately started writing a short story. I didn’t think the idea would work as a screenplay because I wasn’t sure there was enough material to write a feature length movie just about a girl eating herself. I figured it would work better as a stream of consciousness, gothic horror story that takes place inside this girl’s head. But once I finished the story, I knew the character Novella McClure really well and as they say “Character IS story.” So I simply expanded places in the short that needed development and worked a lot of the stream of consciousness stuff into the dialogue. The short story was very helpful and worked as a detailed outline.
3. What was the pre-production phase like? How long did you spend before shooting?
Pre-Production was about 6-8 months. Annie Baker (producer) and I made this movie for very little money and it was all our own money. That part was stressful, but it allowed us plenty of time to prepare. The makeup effects (created by Monster Makeup FX) were of utmost importance. We met with them immediately and planned out each effect at the very start of the project before anyone else had signed on. I also worked very closely with Jon Stevenson (Director of Photography/Executive Producer). We were able to figure out how we could actually shoot all of this stuff with the little time and money we had. During pre-production, I was also able to generate really helpful assets like a fully storyboarded animatic of opening credits, which saved us a plethora of time while shooting on set.
4. I love horror movies with female protagonists. What are some aspects about female driven horror movies that attracted to you to this?
I’m also a big fan of female-driven horror movies because I simply think women are more interesting than men. Especially in the body horror genre. When bad stuff happens to a man’s body, it can be the grossest thing in the world, but at the end of the day, who cares? But if you’re a young, beautiful woman trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles but you can’t stop yourself from permanently destroying your body, THAT’S a problem.
5. What were some challenges of shooting in Denver for an LA setting?
Well, for one, snow. We shot this movie in the dead of winter and got blasted by a major blizzard in the middle of our shooting dates. If you squint your eyes and look in the background, you can see all the beautiful Southern California trees are dead and have no leaves. Fortunately, no one calls us out on that too often. The cold snow was something the crew got over quickly by dressing warm and drinking hot chocolate. But that didn’t really work out for Meggie Maddock (Novella McClure) and Ali Frances (Candice) who spend most of the movie outside in skimpy nightclub dresses or in their underwear. They were total warriors and never complained once.
6. Were there any unexpected occurrences that forced you to change the way you made the movie?
It’s funny because it seemed like something unexpected forced us to change the way we made the movie every passing minute. When you’re making your first feature film, no matter how many short films or commercials you’ve done before, you don’t actually know HOW to make a feature film because you’ve simply never made one before. So things would pop up all the time: A prop wouldn’t get delivered on time, makeup took longer than we were anticipating, snow was falling and we couldn’t shoot a scene outside. What I learned from this is things are always going to change. The key is finding what the movie really is so no matter what happens, you know which direction you need to take.
7. How has making your first feature film changed you?
I’ve always said I can die happy as long as I make a feature film. Now that I’ve done it, it really does feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can die happy. So that’s pretty awesome. But, I also figured once I made my first feature I would get a bunch of phone calls from producers, agents, etc. and I would be making my second movie. No such luck. I’m back in the exact same situation I was in before making EAT and in a way, I couldn’t be happier. I now know how to make a feature length movie on my own and get it released. I’ve been through the battles and know what to prepare for next time. So I can’t wait to get back at it. I’m working on my next script now. My approach to this next movie is radically different than EAT because now I know what’s important to plan out and what will get changed with time. This next movie is going to be amazing.
8. What are the best recent horror movies you’ve watched?
We went to a number of festivals with Eat and saw so many amazing horror movies. This is such an awesome time to be a part of the genre. I’m obsessed with Cheap Thrills and The Guest even though those aren’t strictly horror films. But those two movies are absolute classics in my book. Of all the horror movies I’ve seen recently, It Follows is definitely my favorite. That movie scared the shit out of me. The tone and pacing of It Follows feels like a real nightmare. I dreaded every scene of that movie which is such a rare thing for me. We also saw Gravy at Sitges which I LOVED. It’s a gnarly horror/comedy that blends the two genres perfectly. I’m so excited to see It Follows and Gravy again!
Craig Walendziak is a Harvard Educated screenwriter hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. He spent the majority of his youth touring in hardcore punk bands across the world.
Later, Craig’s love of the horror movies, ushered him into the world of filmmaking. Craig has two projects set for release in 2015, IFC Films CONTRACTED: PHASE II and UnLTD Productions, A DYING ART, directed by David Moscow.
Craig Walendziak is represented by Kailey Marsh, of Kailey Marsh Management & Production. He is a proud father, devoted husband, and devout animal lover.